Yes, they injure our special needs children! Yes, they hurt others too! Yes, I know the world abhors bullies, but should we? What if we offered them compassion instead? What if we worked with them to help them develop empathy for others while we work with those they hurt to help them overcome bullying?
You may wonder how I can think this way especially if you know how bullying impacted my family. Yet, that is exactly the reason I feel this way and thankfully, I am not the only one who does.
Carrie Goldman agreed to let me share a link to her recent article, Bullied Bus Monitor: A Horrifying Video that Affects Us All. She said she cringes when she sees the outrage at the boys turned to aggression and hate. She offered alternatives to help the boys and I agree with her. Thankfully, the Greece Central School District seems to get it too. You can read about it at USA Today.
Please keep reading and keep an open mind!
There are many who can offer help starting with:
Parents of Bullies
Parents, I know you cannot believe your child would intentionally harm anyone unless they were asking for it. I get that you feel like society has attacked you and your child. I understand that you have never seen or heard your child being mean to someone else. I know you have talked to your child and believe them when they tell you either that they did nothing wrong or that the other child started it.
Yet, instead of getting defensive and angry I ask that you listen to the other side calmly and quietly and refuse to comment until all of the facts are accumulated. I ask you to play the “what if” game with me.
- What if your child was different for some reason?
- What if you made too many mistakes to count while trying to help him increase his self-esteem and make it in this world?
- What if you knew in your heart that your child’s differences are not a bad thing, merely a difference?
- What if the child who was harmed was yours?
- Would you see things differently?
I think you would. That is why I forgive you for failing to understand. That is why I ask that you forgive me for verbally attacking you when your child hurt mine. I also ask more of you. I ask that you help your child to play the “what if” game too. I ask that you help them to learn empathy for those who are different from them. I believe you can find many ways to do this and if not then I suggest you go to Ashoka Empathy: Everyone a Changemaker to learn how.
I know you can help! I know your child can help others by being the one who changes and who leads by setting a good example of how to treat others. I believe in you and your child!
Teachers, Administrators, Counselors, All Adults in Authority Positions
I get that it is easy to assume the child who is polite to you cannot possibly be a bully. I know that children who seem to fail to pay attention in your class, who disrupt your class, who question you, or who fail to interact with other students look like the real troublemakers. Instead of seeing things this way I want you to play a game with me too. I want you to be a fly on the wall.
- Observe when the students do not know you are looking.
- Take the time to talk to the kid who appears to be on the fringes, but do this outside of class.
- Get to know them as the unique individuals they are.
- Find a way to help them if you can, but do not stop there.
- I want you to help those who mistreat them too.
Yes, you heard me correctly. I want you to help the children who bullied my child. I want you to help them to develop empathy. I will also be glad to help you if I can, and there are many others who will too. There are so many ways you can begin including clicking on the link I listed for the bullies’ parents. You can see more suggestions from my prior Special-Ism articles.
Former Bullies and Bystanders
Yes, I said former! That is because I know that is what you are. I know that if you are reading this, you are willing to change. You are not the evil monsters the media portrays you to be. You are just misguided. There is infinite hope for you! Take what you have learned from your mistakes and help to change the world to a better place for all of us to live.